Dissenting from Mr. Locke

Though he wrote over three hundred years ago, John Locke’s writing on toleration, and the relationship between church and state is still of great relevance in our culture. Consider this article on proposed legislation (from the executive branch – only odd when you consider things from a constitutional perspective). The author notes:

But in order to qualify for that exemption, schools must meet the DOE’s new definition of a religious school. According to the DOE, “an institution is considered a religious institution if it is owned, controlled, operated, and maintained by a religious organization lawfully operating as a nonprofit religious corporation and awards only religious degrees or religious certificates including, but not limited to, a certificate of Talmudic studies, an associate of biblical studies, a bachelor of religious studies, a master of divinity, or a doctor of divinity.”

This definition excludes colleges from Georgetown to Notre Dame and from Baylor to Wheaton. Not only are many of the country’s religious schools not maintained or operated by a religious organization, but almost all of them award degrees that are not religious. And a few religious schools operate as for-profit institutions as well.

Following Locke, these educrats assume that religion has its realm – the religious, something that is purely private and, well, religious – and the state has the material or public world. While a school that limited itself to ” a certificate of Talmudic studies, an associate of biblical studies, a bachelor of religious studies, a master of divinity, or a doctor of divinity” is operating within the limits set by Locke, other schools – the Georgetowns, Baylors, Wheatons and their ilk – are straying off the Lockean reservation. They have audaciously moved beyond the purely religious to teach subjects like science, math, history, the arts, etc., thinking that their “religious” convictions have bearing on the whole world, not just our interior or our eternity.

The Lockeans will respond that education is a public good, subject to public surveillance. Those religious schools that do stray off the reservation are free to operate, but they may not expect any funding for them or for their students. Of course having taken over the whole apparatus of the funding and accrediting of higher education over the past generation or two, the state seems a bit disingenuous about all this.

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